The recent letter by Chairman Senate Mian Raza Rabbani to the Vice Chancellor of Karachi University regarding his reservations about the university sharing student information with intelligence agencies has reignited the debate about extremism on university campuses. It is no hidden secret that many terrorists are university graduates, and most belong to the sciences, IT and engineering fields. While terrorists being university graduates is not something surprising as institutes of higher education are part of our society and terrorists are not outside it either, there are critical reasons why extremism on campuses is increasing and taking hold.Extremism on campuses is not a numbers game. I have often heard apologists claiming that the percentage of extremists in universities is small and as such it is not a big problem. The issue is not with the percentage but with the existence itself. It does not take a large percentage of extremists to terrorise a population, nor does it take a large number of terrorists to kill scores of people. One suicide bomber can kill hundreds, and one bully can intimidate a whole cross section of students. Therefore, let us not skirt around the issue with numbers. Yes, extremists and potential terrorists are few in number on university campuses, but even that small percentage is worrisome.Anyone known to have extremist views needs to be countered while expounding their views and not after an incident has taken place. Waiting till the last minute is usually a stopgap and largely useless exercise.Even if universities resole to counter the extremist mindset there is no organised mechanism to address it. While the extremist discourse has scores of well-organised apologists, there is no formal structure countering them. Nowhere in universities there are departments of peace studies, and where they do exist they are conveniently clubbed together with ‘conflict studies’ and so there is little surprise as to which side of the department gets more attention.Nowhere in universities do religious studies departments talk about promoting a peace and tolerance narrative. Scholars in religious studies departments are either not interested or are actually sympathetic to the extremist narrative.The extremist narrative is also taking hold in academia in Pakistan because of our singular focus on science and technology. While science and technology are important for economic development, the humanities and social sciences are important for human development. What use of increased prosperity if we cannot use it as ethical and moral human beings. Ancient Greece and Rome, medieval Europe, early modern England and the modern United States and Europe all developed because they used an integrated approach to education. Even the modern ‘liberal arts’ education, pioneered in the United States, is based on a wide spectrum of education, where an engineer has to take courses in history and philosophy before specialising, and an English major still has to pass classes in Maths and Science. This all rounded education was also present in ancient India, where its universities thrived as centres of global learning, and in the Golden Age of Islam where places like Baghdad were the melting pot of ideas. However, today in Pakistan, science and technology departments jealously guard their students from studying anything else, and even the compulsory English, Pakistan Studies and Islamiat courses (all badly taught), are considered a waste of time and energy. Courses on ethics, citizenship and conflict management should become an integral part of the science and technology curriculum in Pakistan, and should be taught by high quality teachers and scholars, if extremism in universities is to be countered.Most terrorists are from a science and technology background: this is not just because such students are more prone to simplistic reasoning due to their mechanical training; but also because, in the present day, terrorists needs science and technology graduates to further their ideology Enough anecdotal evidence has shown that most terrorists are from a science and technology background and this reality is not just because such students are more prone to simplistic reasoning due to their mechanical training where there are clear questions and clear answers, but also because in the present day terrorists needs science and technology graduates to further their ideology. Smart bombs, hacking, etc, are all things only a science graduate can do and so these extremist groups specifically target them. Hence, universities need to take specific measures so as to ensure that their science and technology graduates are educated in disciplines which teach them how to understand the world, deal with conflict, engage in debates, become better citizens etc.Another reason for extremism on campuses is the severe restriction on freedom of speech and student activities on campus. There is an old saying that ‘an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.’ Hence, if you let students, who are at their most creative in university days, linger around without much to do, the organised extremist organisations can easily prey on them. The restriction on discussions, talks and events, which could become a channel for discussing student issues, anxieties and problems, is stifling them and leading them to find solace in the simplistic and exclusionary discourse of the extremists. Allowing freedom of speech on campuses, which universities in the West jealously guard, is a key ingredient in countering extremism.Student unions need to be re-established in universities. If students do not have formalised channels for their political development, they would become more susceptible to the extremist narrative. The university is the best academy for students to get trained in democracy, participation and collaboration and losing this critical opportunity retards the development of the country itself as university graduates—the lifeline of any country, remain badly educated and ill-equipped to grapple with the problems of the country through democratic and participatory means.Lastly, universities should encourage extracurricular activities. There was a time when annual plays by universities and schools were an important part of a city’s calendar, but in the last couple of decades they have almost died out. Similarly, sports only comes alive at a badly organised Sports Day in each university and hibernates the rest of the year. Sporting events and competitions throughout the year in universities will not only give another activity to students but also enable them to learn patience and cooperation.Extremism on campuses in Pakistan is not a new phenomenon and will not be eliminated easily. Only an organised, long term and creative strategy to counter the extremist narrative will work, otherwise we will all drown in it. The writer teaches at the IT University in Lahore. He is the author of ‘A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.’ He tweets at @BangashYK Published in Daily Times, September 19th 2017.